Sunday, March 30, 2014

WPC Me ASAP (aka Flex Your Love Muscle)

      I tell him I have to go to the restroom. Evan says sure. I go to the phone instead and call Trent, who got back from Palm Springs and ask him if he saw Julian there. He tells me no and that the coke he got from Sandy sucks and that he has too much of it and can't sell it. I tell Trent that I can't find Julian and that I'm strung out and tired. He asks me where I am. 
     "In a McDonald's on Sherman Oaks," I tell him.
     "That's why," Trent says.
     I don't understand and hang up. 
                                        - Bret Easton Ellis, Less than Zero

     This past week, the twenty-sixth through the twenty-ninth to be precise, I attended the White Privilege Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, and before anyone gets all "But Kmork, who needs a white privilege conference?" on me, rest assured that I know you would never say such a silly thing. Then again, maybe you would, or maybe you'd say, "But Kmork, everyone knows humanity isn't your thing, so what's the deal?" yet that inquiry would be of some merit, at least, although you'd still be a dick for asking.*
     There's plenty of time to discuss the conference, of course, mostly because this is my blog and I'll do what I damn well please! but also because I don't have much of a personal and/or social life to distract me; thus, consider this the first in a series of magically delicious posts pertaining to this year's WPC. That being said, let's discuss something which had thrown me off; you know, one of those What the hell have I gotten myself into? moments. The thing is, the keynote speaker instructed us to, more or less, flex our love muscle (or muscles**) throughout the conference. Those in the know will understand the dilemma encountered.
     For those unaware, I have 7,297 songs in my iTunes collection. Of this number, 306 have 'love' somewhere in the title, and approximately 6,000 more discuss the topic of love. Here's an excellent example, in more ways than one:

     Great song, great video, right? Right! Beyond academic terms, however, I wouldn't say I actually get the point of this or any of the other 6,306 songs mentioned previously, so when some dude up on the stage directed me to let love be our guide for the rest of the conference, you can easily imagine the resultant confusion. I mean, if the guy had ordered us to flex our amorality muscle, I would have leapt from the chair and started partying 45 Grave style.

   Awesome song, awesome scenario, right? Right! But no, the guy had to go with love. Always with the love. At that point, it became a multiple choice scenario of sorts, as I could have elected to A) slide into a homicidal frenzy; B) head to the bar way, way early; C) go back to the hotel, take a nap, and hit the gym; or D) work around the love. Surprisingly, I opted to work around the love; how and why are another topic for another day, suffice it to say that it was worth the effort.

That, and there wasn't any flexing involved. 

* You might have a point, too, but let's not get caught up in such tangents.
** I'm no biologist, mind you, but the anatomy of love looks pretty fucked up when dissected.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Today, I woke up with a terrific hangover. I was aided in combating my alcohol-induced, full-body ague with a bowl of fried rice and kimchi, replete with SPAM, dried laver, sauteed mushrooms, and love, cooked to perfection by my wife, the illustrious and praiseworthy XXXX XXX. The cherry on the top: a fried egg, soft yolk. Mix it all together. Creation.

I drank a cup of water and tried to take a nap. Eventually, I fell asleep, but before I did I ran through my memory. It's an old trick that I developed from years of having insomnia. I put a picture in my mind, consider it, and go where it takes me.

In that way, I can be a time traveler. I remembered being 5 or so and sitting at a table-top Pac-Man game on the way home from seeing a movie with my mom and dad; I recalled stealing golf balls from the Par 3 hole nearest to where I grew up, hearing the shouts of players as we terrorized their game and ran like fugitives; I reminisced over going mini putting for my 6th-grade graduation celebration, and, 10 or so years' later, having an epic day of touring possibly every mini putt facility from Burlington to Hamilton with my brother and another close friend.

I remembered myself in my bedroom, playing my Game Boy. Castlevania: The Adventure. God, that was hard. I remembered watching Goodfellas in a friend's basement, and later watching it in the basement of my girlfriend's friend's house as I lied ill with a fever. I remembered my father driving me to Toronto and keeping a bag of chocolate macaroons in the compartment next to the driver's seat. I remembered saying goodbye to my daughter at YYZ as I hunched down to give her a hug and she jumped up to hit me dead in the chin with her forehead to knock me silly. Best hug ever.

I remembered sitting cross-legged on the floor of our family's "TV room," piecemeal eating a bag of hard candy while watching The Muppet Movie. I swallowed a piece of candy whole, and for the rest of the day I was sure that it would be my end; it was only when my mother poured me a cup of hot water later that evening to "melt" it that I was relieved. I was then assured that I would wake up again the next morning.

I remembered walking down the stairs of my high school when I was 16 and seeing a classmate who was walking up. "You're getting big!" he said. And since then I've tried to get small.

I remembered watching Tim Burton's Batman, playing Mega Man until 3 o'clock in the morning, reading The Phantom Tollbooth in my elementary school library on a rainy day...

And then I fell asleep, and I dreamed some more.

When I awoke, I was rejuvenated. Alive. Again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Girl Talk


     Doing seventy on Highway 13 toward Marion because Megan says it's as good a place as any to continue with this ridiculous game she's playing. Crazy bitch keeps flipping through the same six radio stations like there's something worth locating, but it's radio. Asked her about that and she just keeps on keeping on about probability, chaos theory, and some guy I've never met as if I care. She and the rest of these clowns show up at my parent's house and now we're heading north in my dad's Dodge Durango with the passenger side airbag deactivated because Megan said it's superfluous. Who says that? And what the hell was up with that idiotic story she fed my folks? Who does that? She's insane, but she's here. So.
     Jenny and Jackie are following us but they're falling behind, only going sixty-five or something like that. They don't know where we're headed besides Marion, and Marion isn't big but it's big enough to get lost when nobody seems to know the final destination, Megan included, no doubt. Brooke's in the backseat, not saying anything because she's ripped on ecstasy. She takes a bite from a Snickers bar; Megan reminds her that the candy is for children like we don't have more than enough to go around. 
     Bitch keeps rambling about this or that; no sense in paying attention since she's psychotic. Just pick a goddamn station, would you? Been stuck with the parents for two years. Can't hold a job. Can't sleep at night. Can't sleep at all without the Ambien, which gives me headaches when awake. Can't get a date besides Marika's boyfriend, Brendan. Can't take showers, only baths, but I'm not sure why. Can't seem to get out of the house often enough. Can't get a straight answer from this lunatic. Can't do much of anything. 
     A Daft Punk song pops up on the radio and Megan mutters some garbage about a convergence of variables, whatever that means, and from the flicker of light in the corner of my eye, I can tell she just lit a cigarette. "You fucking bitch!" I scream, looking that smiley faced freak right in her painted, blackened eyes, "I said there's no smoking in my dad's Durango!" She responds by saying I should keep my eyes on the road and

102.9 KZIA. Breathe Carolina, Blackout. Wrong place, wrong time. 
     "Fate? Chance? Neither, actually, and this is important, Devin, for He never once claimed to discern the future, as it doesn't exist, per se."
94.1 KRNA. Dio, Rainbow in the Dark. Not in the mood. 
     "The thing is, He was, quite simply, astoundingly adept at assessing probability amidst interactions and butterfly effects, though not necessarily in the mathematical sense, given that humanity and its associated scientific pursuits were scarcely his forte."
100.7 KKRQ. Rick Derringer, Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo. Fuck that shit. 
     "It would be disingenuous to associate said ability with chaos theory, all things considered, for although the results could be viewed as similar, albeit exponentially more effective and reliable, it isn't as if He understood, let alone employed recurrence plots or Poincaré maps to arrive at such conclusions."
96.5 KKSY. Kelly Clarkson, Since U Been Gone. Adorable, but lacking a certain something. 
     "Think of it as super-intuitive meteorological skills, to the max. A silly analogy, sure, but nevertheless appropriate."
104.5 KDAT. Men Without Hats, Safety Dance. Not enough room to get down. 
     "As stated previously, this is significant, Devin, because what keeps you up at night is your inability to accurately perceive and process what had been glimpsed at the end. To do this, you need to understand Him -to an extent, at least- and for one to grasp that concept, so to speak, a person must come to grips with what had been required to break Him."
107.9 KMFW. Tool, Stinkfist. Close, but not quite. 
     "The trick to breaking Him had less to do with the potential inaccuracies of His forecasts, for lack of a better term, than preying upon His pathological incapacity to sort out the unforeseen emotional responses of others to whatever transpired, anticipated or not."
Back to 102.9 KZIA. Daft Punk, Get Lucky. Figures. 
     "Having said all that, Devin, His artistry cannot be overstated, and if one were to consider that we're barreling toward Marion at just over seventy miles per hour, me without a seatbelt and the airbag disengaged while a song like Get Lucky plays on the radio, it stands to reason that an event He once mentioned, however casually, is more or less bound to occur. Convergence of variables and such."
Inhale smoke. Exhale acquiescence.
     "You might want to keep your eyes on the road," I suggest, because safety is merely an accident waiting to happen. 

Nameless (as translated)
     Two have gone ahead, while another lags behind. That one is hesitant to cross the concrete streams, as it has seen others fall prey to those clumsy things swimming both up and down the otherwise still waters much faster than we can sprint. The danger is real, yet so is the need to cross, for what lies ahead is superior to that which has been seen before. It wavers, quivering with trepidation. The success of the two that went ahead has done little to assuage its fear, thus the fawn awaits my lead; I am the eldest, and my antlers have grown so very large since my youth. One must lead by example in this world, and the time has come. May the lights avoid me. May the lights avoid me. May the lights avoid me.
     Sometimes I feel as though existence lacks momentum, but right now, I feel strangely content about being strapped, albeit comfortably, into the backseat of what is most likely a 2012 Dodge Durango. I've been watching the moon for some time now, though I can't really be too sure about anything, exactly. I seem to think that I recall my doing so began with the onset of Pale Flesh, which has since given way to Sad Eyes, however long that's been. I feel at once distant from this reality but find myself wondering whether the earbuds and I have become one, producing a new form of life, one detached from those occupying the foremost portion of this vehicle; this shared space between the three of us may or may not exist in the traditional sense. Next to me sit bags upon bags filled with smaller bags, all plastic, of individually wrapped candy, all sealed.
     I ponder, possibly aloud, the meaning of the phrase fun size, or for that matter, fun sized. Peeling the wrappings apart, I seize the opportunity -whatever that means, as well- to pop an unknown substance into my mouth and discover the parameters of fun as well as size. The darkness filling up the passenger seat shifts, and the radiant smiley face gazes upon me; the woman beneath or behind it speaks, although what she says is lost somewhere within the space and sound separating the two, three, or all of us. Sad Eyes becomes Insulin just as the smiley face recedes, returning to the darkness whose shape might belong to Megan. Like, profound.
     Strangely, we've stopped, sort of, and now we're rolling, turning, or spinning, of which I'm not quite certain, let alone how or why. The moon appears, disappears, and reappears yet again. Crystal Castles has been supplanted by a cacophony of thuds, scrapes, screams, and Daft Punk. At some point, the world stops shifting and I find myself upside down, looking up -or maybe it's the other way around- at an array of packaged treats and broken glass alike. I may or may not be bleeding, as this has yet to be determined.
     A voice I'm pretty sure is Devin's curses the sad, sad state of one 2012 Dodge Durango. I don't know what to say but feel like speaking anyway. I opine that it's good to be alive, regardless of what that actually means, to which profanity ensues. She instructs me to quit fucking around. Given the context, I propose that it's rather difficult to do anything but fuck around. After some fidgeting, Devin begrudgingly concedes the point, thereby granting me a moment of serenity.
     "Oh, hey," I begin, just now noticing a particularly glaring discrepancy, "so where's Megan?" 

     Normally, I'm not one to exceed the speed limit because there's so often no hurry in arrival whatsoever and speeding tickets aren't my thing, but tonight, on an especially dark, partly cloudy evening, my Dodge Stratus has officially exceeded the limit by two miles per hour, which means Jackie and I are now traveling at sixty-seven in an attempt to catch up with Devin, who must be going at least seventy. Ironically, she's in the right lane, while we're on the left. For me, it's because the asshole we passed thirty seconds ago has halogen bulbs installed in his car and I'll be damned if I'm going to have that shit blinding me via the rearview mirrors. Traffic is sparse on Highway 13 tonight, and the only thing scarcer is secondary illumination, as traffic lights and street lamps are virtually nonexistent on the stretch between the interchange and Marion proper. 
     "I'm beginning to regret buying this Barack Obama mask," Jackie states with minimal affect. 
     "No shit?" I respond, half-laughing. 
     "Well, so far, at roughly every other house we've visited tonight, people either complain that I'm a racist or they chastise me for endorsing a socialist dictatorship. I can't win."
     "I tried to tell you." Although she sometimes says and does the dumbest things, Jackie and I have gotten along quite well since high school, which comes as a surprise to more than a few of our classmates, but it makes sense considering that we attend the same community college, reside in the same apartment complex, and lived through the same traumatic experience. To that last point, we have a rule: I never ask why she agreed to handle the flare gun, and she refrains from inquiring about my decision to put on that goddamn t-shirt. Silence has served our relationship well. 
     "Still better than that stupid pirate cap, sword and eye patch you got."
     "Oh, please. That's a stylish ensemble and you know it." 
     "I know you don't mean that, Jenny. You found it in the children's aisle, after all."
     "Okay, now you listen here," I say, playfully reprimanding her with a wag of my finger, "it was on sale, and at $6.99, I don't give a damn if it was meant for a prepubescent boy."
     "Hell, I bet you're proud of it," she declares, pausing briefly to pop a miniature Twix into her mouth, "and...holy shit!" she shouts, spewing chunks of the only candy bar with the cookie crunch onto the dashboard.
     Ordinarily, I'd give her considerable flak for desecrating my car like that but holy shit is right. Even at the distance between us on such a dark night, it's readily apparent that Devin's Durango just hit something, and before I get the chance to echo Jackie's apt exclamation, the Durango's left end has spun forward; in the time it takes me to hit the brakes, the Durango is rolling, rolling, and rolling some more into the grassy median which separates us from opposing traffic. Like Jackie said, "Holy shit."
     We're in the median at the moment; Jenny's grabbing stuff out of the trunk and I'm sitting in the driver's seat, too spooked to exit from the passenger side and too shocked to wrap my head around the preceding events. Jenny reappears, hands me some road flares, and instructs me to get a few on the road. I'm all like, "You keep road flares in your trunk?" but she's too busy running toward the upturned Durango with a first aid kit to pay me any heed. Anyway, road flares, yeah.
     Get one flare lit and let it fall to the cement. The Audi with the halogen bulbs nears, pulls over to the other side of the road, and much to my bewilderment, the lights go out. Dickhead emerges and asks if he should dial 9-1-1. Get another flare lit and bawl, "What's that, fuckhead? No, you should call Papa John's instead. Get the fuck back in your car!" before lobbing the second flare at his Audi, hitting the front tire. Asshole gets back into his car. No idea who will be called, if anyone.
     The third flare has been lit, and that's when a noise from the darkness on the road ahead catches my attention; scratching, sliding, and heaving intertwined, but I can't see anything. Might be someone from the Durango. Drop the third flare and light a fourth, the last one in my possession. Move toward the unseen disturbance, flare held high.
     What the hell am I looking at? Still too removed from the flickering red blaze, the unidentified object is a quivering, misshapen mass that looks somehow...rearranged, even amidst the darkness. What appears to be a spindly appendage kicks into the air spasmodically; a second gangly limb, meanwhile, juts out in the opposite direction, rotating more than kicking. Upon inching forward, the light reveals something akin to the frame of a deer, but it's all...twisted, to the extent that I can only assume it had been a hoofed creature of some kind. I then drop the flare and slowly back away because the thing, whose head remains partially obscured by its mutilated trunk, is beginning to rise, and that's...impossible.
     From a distance, Jenny's yelling at me for some reason or another, the specifics of which can't be processed immediately, for everything has been drowned out by the animated object; the first thing that comes to mind, though probably not the correct thing, is the sound generated by taking a bite out of a hard shell taco, or maybe a Whopper loaded with ostensibly fresh vegetables, followed by gratuitous chewing. Shadow overlaps shade, crunch gives way to fracture, and the head emerges, free from its trunk, which sinks back to the glimmering concrete accompanied by a sloshy slap. Jenny's words have begun to make sense.
     I get it now. She was stuck, quite literally, in a buck pretzel but that's no longer the case, barring an embedded pair of antlers and the head to which they remain attached. Happy Halloween, right? The shadow with the severed deer head stuck to it gurgles a request for a cigarette, and I'm all like, "You stay classy,

     Once upon a time in a wasteland not so far away, I found myself traveling westward on Highway 30 toward an irrelevant destination. In the darkest of hours, when ruminations are brighter than headlights and cemeteries are encountered as often as oncoming traffic, one is apt to focus upon anything deemed out of the ordinary, and to confuse such sights with those of an extraordinary nature is understandable yet the distinction must be made. What I beheld that evening is merely happenstance of the nocturnal variety, decidedly less than preternatural in both appearance and significance but a thing of the utmost beauty nonetheless.
     I'd been hurtling down the road with the high beams of my rusty Beretta doing their best to illuminate the blackened Earth when movement at the ever-shifting edge of darkness drew my gaze to the side of the road, toward an object far enough to be free from danger yet near enough to arouse one's fearful curiosity. Amidst the brightened weeds and vacant plains which characterize numerous segments of Highway 30 (which is to say that for all intents and purposes, Highway 30 traverses, more often than not, a grassy void) I observed a coyote, and a particularly scrawny one at that, feasting upon the partially-dismembered corpse of a doe which had, in all probability, been the unfortunate victim of vehicular cervicide. For a moment, the ravenous canine paused to observe the automobile, its eyes flashbulbs returning the unwanted light. Momentarily illuminated, the gore smeared across the coyote's muzzle was almost cerise, glistening like a cherry atop a sundae and before the light had completely passed it by, the coyote returned to its quarry, burying its face in the belly of the broken beast and I said to myself, Now that's what I call love.
     Funny how things work out.

M83 - Kim & Jessie

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Third Man

Porter: He is now
[pointing up] 
 in Hell, or
[pointing down]
in Heaven.

The extent of human creativity and inventiveness is such that, were I to attempt to even breach the crust of trying to absorb our cumulative knowledge of culture and art, I would have to live a thousand lives, probably more. Still, I try. One step at a time.

Carol Reed's The Third Man is a film that had eluded me for decades, which, I suppose, is thematically appropriate. Finally, today, I sat down -- lied in bed is a more accurate descriptor -- and enjoyed a film 29 years my senior, 64 years since its release.

It was love at first viewing. Considered by many as one of the best films ever made, it's easy to see why. The acting, cinematography, location photography, dialogue (god, that dialogue!), cinematic sleight of hand*; the tension (sorry, suspense), wit, the zither score, the ending...and every idiosyncrasy within the film's 104 minutes is astonishing.

Imagining myself as Anna in the final scene, walking slowly toward the foreground to catch up and then surpass Holly Martins, I know I want to go back, to recreate what was, what might be, and what is impossible.

What an incredible film.

* Holly's bruised lip switching sides, the kid's ball changing color, the unintentional (or not) mispronunciation of names, the changing cats...I could go on.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Time is a Compact Disc (Kid N)

On my way to work this morning, I decided that I would listen to Radiohead's Kid A when I got home. I had no particular reason for wanting to do this; the idea just popped into my head capriciously. But it was a plan that I latched onto. Get home, dust off the stereo and open my hefty, dust-gathered Case Logic CD holder.

I have a one- to two-hour window every weekday night in which to consume some form of leisure while chilling with my dachshund before my wife gets home. In the past half-year, that entertainment has included reading e-books, re-watching The Wire on DVD and The Twilight Zone on my laptop, watching NBA League Pass Miami Heat basketball games, watching some other shows (True Detective, Agents of SHIELD, The Real Housewives of Mogadishu), and playing RPG games on my iPhone (Final Fantasy IV and VI). This week, though, I decided to do something different each night instead of following a consistent plan*, and Kid A's straw got pulled from my mind grapes.

Aside from being one of the greatest albums ever created**, the album holds a profound significance for me. It was released in the fall of 2000, six months into my first year in Korea. Listening to it tonight, I was again reminded of its greatness while also reflecting on the intervening years since its release.

I got married. Had a beautiful daughter. Got divorced. Remarried. Got a dog. Met so many good people, and, unfortunately, lost some of them. Taught English, did recruiting, freelanced, Dragonlanced. Worked at tech companies big and small, and got to shoot at my co-workers (for game testing!). Protected my household from cobras***, and beat Contra 4.

That all seems so long ago yet still so close and dear. I remember the kids I used to teach, some who must have families by now, and others who might have succumbed to illness*****. Every day, I sit at my desk, and, while poring over walls of text, I get snatches of long-forgotten memories, some as insignificant as purchasing a candy bar when I was a kid, others as poignant as the one time I tongue-kissed Queen Elizabeth.

Just Kid(A)ding.

* On Wednesday I kept my eyes closed to simulate blindness. Yesterday I tried to waterboard myself (it's like trying to tickle yourself; it doesn't work).

** Rolling Stone named it the best album of the 2000s (even though they gave it a 4/5 review), and I'm inclined to agree. NME, on the other hand (or maybe it was Q; I get those two publications confused like people confuse Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton), declared it the second-best Radiohead album after In Rainbows, which, as good as In Rainbows is, is just crazy talk.

*** No, wait, that was Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

**** I had a student, Young, who had cerebral palsy and whom would write the most insightful essays. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her and wonder what happened to her.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ombudsman's Address

I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I'm with isn't it, and what's it seems weird and scary to me, and it'll happen to you, too.
-- Abraham Simpson

The greatest and worst thing about the Internet is that its users can have anonymity (although that anonymity is slowly but surely becoming increasingly rarer, for better or ill). We can use PCs or mobile devices to submit information about ourselves that we might not otherwise offer were it not for anonymity, which is unquestionably a good thing. Someone suffering from suicidal ideation, for example, is able to seek solace and like-minded comfort, ideally, in communities across the world and concentrated via the Internet, whereas that cry for empathy might not be possible locally and without Web anonymity. On the other hand, the ability to lack a true identity on the Internet can, and has, enabled criminals ranging from identity thieves to pedophiles.

That's the sticky wicket ("Everyone, remain calm, and BE AT YOUR PERIL!"). Hopefully, an accord will be reached in that regard in the coming decades (centuries?), although I admit I'm wearing my optimist cap on that while my pessimist pants are around my ankles.

I'm not ready to try to square off with that behemoth, but one thing I would appreciate would be to know the ages of people who anonymously write comments on Web forums, particularly video game sites*. See, I've become increasingly aware that, like most forms of entertainment that came before it, gaming has -- and has for some time, actually; I'm just now realizing it -- become a barometer for young people to compartmentalize coolness, a cliquish and myopic way to identify oneself. Jocks, nerds, metal heads: these are the reductive labels of my youth. Now, it seems in gaming that you're not a "true gamer" if you enjoy playing Angry Birds or Nintendogs**. And that's so depressing to me.

Fun is fun, whether it involves shooting a plumber from a cannon, hiding from enemies in a cardboard fruit box, eating blue ghosts, or tapping on your smartphone to help keep a disgustingly ugly bird alight (and everything else before, after, and in between).

I grew up in the Golden Axe-Age of gaming, and I'll tell you this: You aren't defined by the games you play. There were shitty games then, and there are shitty games now, but the difference is that no one gave any thought to games that other people found enjoyable. Hell, I can't stand F2P games like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, but other people really like those games, and that's great! They are having fun! That's gaming!

Why would anyone spend so much mental energy to hate what goes on on another person's game device? We're all gamers, after all.

* YouTube and Yahoo! comment sections are lost causes at this point, the zombie apocalypse of Web discussion, the Ground Zero of intelligent discourse.

** I like both of those games, motherfucker, and I beat Contra 4.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Piece (Part One)

   I met Maurice Speck one winter evening when I was eleven years old. I had seen him many times before – he owned the house next door, after all, and he’d always chat with my father when they’d run into each other: small talk as they left for work in the morning or returned home at the same time; longer chats if they were simultaneously mowing the lawn in summer or shoveling the driveway in winter. But until that particular day, I myself had never spoken with the man. The extent of my dialogue when I saw him was a hello or a “Trick or treat!” on Halloween, an “I’m canvassing for our school’s annual fund-raising, and would you like to buy some chocolate to support our after-school programs?” Come to think of it, we had a somewhat comedic neighborly chocolate exchange paradigm. 

My definition of meeting a person, and I don’t think it’s a radical delineation, is to actually interact on a level above the not-so-random encounters that keep us close yet quite far. You see lots of people, you exchange pleasantries and become familiar with each other, but you never really meet someone until you exchange information that extends beyond the brittle construct of what is considered polite – and arbitrarily ill-defined – human interaction. 

I had left school when it let out at 3:30 PM. It was cold, and the snow banks lining the roads and sidewalks seemed as tall as mountains, the ice underfoot craggy and scowling. I don’t remember now how I had about two dollars’ worth of quarters in my coat pocket, but I remember where I planned to put them: into the Robocop coin-op at DeCiccio’s, the local pizzeria.

The DeCiccio’s entrance was a weird one for a restaurant. You’d open the door and see nothing but a dark hallway, the only light coming from an arcade game’s screen at the end. If you turned right at the end of the hall there was a dimly lit dining room of four tables, usually unoccupied. They never had many in-house patrons because they specialized in deliveries and take-out, which was a shame. The delivery pizza from DeCiccio’s was good; the pizza in their dining room was superlative.

But I was there to play Robocop, and after exhausting all of my quarters, a funny thing happened. The INSERT COIN TO CONTINUE screen would take me back to where I had left off in the game if I pressed START, no money down. I felt a little guilty for this video-game panacea, but, hell, I would beat Robocop come Hell or high water. It was like Maximum Overdrive inverted

Some hours later, I beat the game, but when I left  the restaurant it was dark outside. Grey clouds above, and black snow from cars peppered among the white. My Casio watch, with its unreliable light, showed that it was 5:36. That’s not too late in the evening, I thought, but coming home at dusk was an alien experience to me. I walked, and every step solicited…something. A piece of my youth? Something more sinister? I’m still curious to know.

When I got home, the doors were locked, and no lights were on inside the house. My parents often worked late, and sometimes they forgot to leave at least one door open, but I could always manage to get the garage door open at least (push then pull up hard on the handle, then shake furiously left to right), which I did, but the door inside the garage, which led to the kitchen, was bolted closed. Shit.

 I went around front and sat on the patio step, defeated. I pulled my science textbook out of my bag, but in the dark I couldn’t read any of the words. I blew into my hands and rubbed them together.

“Shit! Fuck!”

Then I heard a voice.

“Oh no, son, you need to get out of this cold. What are you doing here? Come on over next door. You look like an icicle on Jack Frost’s dick.”


And that was how I first met Maurice Speck. How I really met Maurice Speck. We would meet (meet) a couple of times over the years, but if I had to rank our encounters, that one is my favorite.

This is a story about salvation. But not mine.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Song for K (Cavalier Here)

Bloc Party - Song for Clay (Disappear Here)

If I were to mention Anticipation, you'd talk about the House, and if I were to speak of the House, you'd bring up the fact that the House always wins, but you can rest easy, for come what may, I am lukewarm, and nothing ever really touches me. Now, let us eat with complete disdain.

(Are you afraid to merge on the freeway?)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sore Loser

On June 12, 2011, I was sitting at my desk during lunch, listening to ESPN Radio. The Miami Heat were minutes away from losing the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. I wanted to throw up. I went into the bathroom, but not to vomit. I just needed a time-out. I sat in the toilet stall -- lid closed, of course -- while staring at the ESPN app on my phone. Final score: Dallas 105, Miami 95. Swear word.

I had predicted this. When the Heat landed LeBron James in free agency (and signed Chris Bosh, and re-signed Dwyane Wade), I guessed that they wouldn't win a title in their first year together. Talent of that caliber doesn't...calibrate so easily. It takes time. At least a season, if it ever does.

Expectations were high, but expectations don't often match reality. And, throughout the season, I became guilty of letting my 'what ifs' and 'I think we can do its' take over (I grew up in Toronto, after all; I think they put Go Leafs! chemicals in the tap water). After Miami dispatched Philadelphia, then Boston, then Chicago in the Playoffs, the championship was all but assured. Right?


I was crushed. I wanted to cry. The universe is cruel, and the only sure things are disappointment and black licorice.

I will admit that I am a little sucky baby. I called my wife immediately after the game:


"Can you buy us a Dachshund*?"

God bless her, she did. Sitting at work that afternoon, she sent me cell phone photos of a 12-week-old Dachshund whom she had just bought.

I decided to call him Flash after the nickname of my favorite basketball player. He has gone on to live up to, and transcend, that name, though, through speed, vertical leaping ability, and dog. He has an 'S' on his chest that I just haven't found yet, and he's my hero.

I'm glad the Miami Heat lost the 2011 Finals.

 * The proper-noun capitalization -- or non-capitalization -- of specific animals has bugged the shit out of me for a while. If you can call a bicycle made by a specific company a Schwinn, you should be able to call a dog bred for a specific purpose a Dachshund, capital D.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Hide and Seek (숨바꼭질) Review

After dinner, Leon and I wanted to watch a movie. She suggested 감기 (Flu), which we had wanted to watch for a while (because it was filmed in Bundang, and because it features Soo Ae, toward whom I have a strange attraction), but it was never available at the rental place downstairs. Apparently they didn't stock it because it's not very good, and I have to cry bullshit there. Because it surely can't be as bad as Hide and Seek.

The film starts out promising, though predictable. A single woman living in a rundown area of Incheon is stalked and murdered by a figure in black: black jumpsuit and motorcycle helmet. After the title reveal, we're introduced to our protagonist, who for some reason is never given a name. He's rich, he owns a cafe, has a wife and two kids, and crippling OCD, which, as you might expect, is movie OCD and not real OCD, in that his disorder comes and goes based on the needs of the plot.

It turns out our protagonist (whom I'll just call Guy from now on for brevity's sake) was adopted, and his older brother was accused of molesting a girl when he was a teenager. The older brother was probably innocent, but, because he has scabs all over his body, Guy, who hates his scabs (because OCD), lies and said he molested the girl. This led to Guy's brother becoming a social outcast who did some prison bids and was shunned by the family and denied an inheritance when their parents passed. 

Years later, Guy gets a call from someone asking about his brother. He's been missing from his apartment, but it's not really a big deal (so why the phone call?). The neighborhood is shady, one petitioned for demolition, and people around there go missing all the time. 

Guy goes to investigate the neighborhood, telling his wife and children to stay in the car*. While he's there, his kids are kidnapped inside the car by a crazy dude and saved by a woman with a taser. Taser Lady insists that they come in for a cuppa, and explains that she and her daughter hate the neighborhood and are moving soon. Her husband is in Australia.

Then Guy mentions that his missing brother lived in #317, and everything goes to shit: Taser Lady kicks them out of her apartment, yelling at Guy to make his brother stop peeping at her daughter.

And here is where I have to take my leave, at least as far as a proper review or synopsis goes. A movie this bad doesn't deserve spoiler warnings, but I'm a man of principle. Needless to say, things get pretty ridiculous. 

Some points:

- It's shot really well.

- Every Korean movie I've watched with a status war theme is always terribly written ("Mom, I want pizza! Pizza!" "My friend at school has a 3DS, so buy me a 3DS!"). And like 하녀 (The Housemaid), they both end in a conflagration, this one weirdly localized as Guy and his kids stare dumbfounded.

- I kind of want to rewatch the movie to take inventory of just how many times people are hit in the head by objects (flower pots, concrete bricks, lead pipes, fists, umbrellas**).

- Best line of the movie: "It's not the yogurt lady! Don't open the door!"

- I'm no film cricket, but opening a movie titled Hide and Seek with a family literally playing hide-and-seek is a bit much, no?

- That is the worst ending to any movie I've ever seen. That kid has to eat or go to the bathroom. 


*  Like that ever works. And it happens twice in this movie!

** been there